May 22, 2007

A letter to the Editor

Wrote the following letter to "The Hindu" regarding an article of the editor's daughter topping an US university. This kind of a propaganda is demeaning to any real achiever, something akin to blowing one's own trumpet. I am not sure how much of my letter would be published, if at all it is published. Here it is below :

Dear Editor,

This is in reference to your “news item” on Ms Ram’s academic achievements. I have been a staunch defender of “The Hindu” whenever someone said that it is not what it used to be. For in today’s world of frenzied media activity, I was of the opinion that “The Hindu” retained a certain appreciable degree of sanity.
But this particular coverage of Ms. Ram’s achievements and profiling of her academic career came as an assault to my beliefs. Publishing something that would be better off as an “advertiser’s feature” in the middle of the news section (thankfully, not as an editorial) seems to put “The Hindu” on the same standing as the TV and newspaper endeavors of Tamil Nadu’s leading political parties.
The common reader of a paper like “The Hindu” doesn’t generally expect to see blatant propaganda of any sort, leave alone the academic glory of the editor’s family member. Of what good, would this bit of news do to me, as a reader hard pressed for time to keep pace with the news, I fail to follow.
And besides, if Ms. Ram is an exceptional budding journalist, then, let her be profiled in the supplements concerning education, and not in the main newspaper. A feature of this nature befits a person who has won a prestigious award for her professional acheivements, which is not the case here.
All around the globe, in the hallowed portals of many a glorious institution, Indian students are topping the ranks every other year. Not all of them get featured even in the corner of your weekly supplements.
A decade back, I would be fully confident that such a letter of criticism would definitely be published, but yesterday’s story hints at an attitude that would rather send this letter to the trash. Please maintain the quality of unbiased and sensible news reporting that “The Hindu” has been known for all these years and kindly refrain from sensationalization of this caliber.



Karthik said...

Wow .. U know what - the first thing that struck em in yesterday's paper was this .. And i wanted to write to the reader's editor too - but was stuck with work !! I am writing my version ASAP now !! :D :D

Hari said...

Hey Soli!

That was a wonderful letter. You drove the nail right on the head! It is my dream to get my article published in a paper like "The Hindu". But I haven't really tried hard for that. Only a couple of times I had mailed to "Letters to the Editor" column but they didn't get published. But every now and then I dream about how some day my article, along with my photograph would appear in the paper so that I could run around screaming in ecstasy!!

I seriously wish this letter of yours gets published in the paper. ( Then I could run around saying "Hey! My friend got published!!)
The content is worth every bit to get published.
All the best. (Intimate me when it does)

Karthik said...

Dear Sir,

I have interacted with you earlier and have already mentioned about my utmost respect for "The HINDU" and how it's more or less an integral part of my life. When i opened the newspaper on Monday morning, i was shocked by this "NewsItem"-

With all due respects to madam Vidya Ram and without any intention of belittling her achievements, i feel that this item doesn't deserve to make it to the main newspaper. I wouldn't have bothered much had it been tucked away in some corner of "MetroPlus", but to place it in the last page definetely was "out of character" for a newspaper of the hindu's calibre. So in what way are you different from the "regional" parties or a famous mainstream party who follow dynastic politics ?? I seriously wonder whether you would have given the same coverage had it been the daughter of an ordinary employee working in the accounts department or news department ? My dad who's an avid reader of the paper himself remarked - "It's his newspaper. And if he doesn't write about his daughter's achievements, who else would ??". I sincerely hope that this wasn't the reasoning when you decided to publish that worthy news item !!

With Warm Regards,
Karthik M
(Address given in the below mail)

EnGeetham aka "My Song!" said...

Right on, sol. I believe most Hindu readers would have felt that way. I can see the readers' editor either sidestepping this whole issue or coming out with some mumbo-jumbo of journalistic choice and how great is this award in the field of journalism that we do not get its importance.
I was chatting with the (bangalore section) city editor of the Hindu; and puller hir leg that perhaps the next news item would be about the arrival of litter at Ram's residence...

~SuCh~ said...

@karthik: Good you did that ! even if they dont publish our letters atleast two voices are louder than one..
@hari: :).. but i wouldnt be proud if this one gets published... :-(
I had started reading that article, and was wondering whats the big deal about it, till the point where they mentioned "coincidentally" that ms ram happens to be D/O Mr Editor.. Mr. Ram can certianly do better than this to publicize his daughter's feats... Pathetic show..

catch 22 said...

What is Hindu coming down too? One paper i love reading and if they publish trash like this where will a reader like me go ?And I still don understand whats the need for it?

LUCKY said...

Thats a nice blog here :)

Dont tell me 'The Hindu' has come down to this. I sit here in Mumbai defending 'The Hindu' alone and they go and do this.. *sigh*

aravindh KRISHNAMOORTHY said...

The rule of choosing the indefinite article with abbreviations is atypical but profound. Have a look at:
Or (if this works) have a look at the Google web readable version:

- Aravindh

Nero said...

Such a killjoy you are! :D
(kidding. the letter's very well written.)

Nero said...

Such a killjoy you are! :D
(kidding. the letter's very well written.)

~SuCh~ said...

That article just let the hindu slip by many points in my rating :-)

thanks for visiting my blog.. True, one feels mighty let down when things like this happen..


Thanks for the link.. corrected the error :)

The letter didnt get published :(..
And thanks for upping my comment count by commenting twice...

G again,
"chatting with the city editor ... hir leg "

Intelligent typo there... Not revealing the gender of the subject either way.. :)

Rashmi said...

That was a very justified outpour of emotions in the letter, dear. Ever since I have started reading newspapers, it has been "The Hindu" and it alone. Now, so disgusting to see it let us down like this.
Truly well written. Let's care less if it is not published, the message did reach them, right? At the end of the day, that is all matters.

Blood always thicker,huh? Doesn't spare even the so far judicious people!!

EnGeetham aka "My Song!" said...

sol ;) - when you work for a co, where diversity is big, you need to be gender-agnostic. i can proudly claim that "hir" to be my own invention; and use it whenever in all my official comm too...

prettyslyforabrownguy said...

I felt odd reading that piece of news.I cannot exactly say what i felt about the item, but felt kind of odd that too from a newspaper like the hindu which i had utmost respect for.

EnGeetham aka "My Song!" said...

Reading Mr.Narayan's defense today..."Amen !!!"

Karthik said...

He hee - I got quoted a lot :D :D

Aneeways it was a decent reply - he kind of addressed most of the concerns - but he's basically helpless !!

~SuCh~ said...

Who doesn't want cheap publicity ?
But its sad to see what a few high fliers are doing to the reputation that has taken generations to build.. But uncannily, I admired Mr.Ram and his frontline when The Hindu was cautiously neutral. Did not expect this kind of hypocrisy from him and his ilk.
Patent it... lest I might steal it... :)
welcome to my blog :). After the initial infuriation, I too am left with a little more than a queer feeling.. Its strange for a paper like the hindu...

@G and Karthik:

The reader's editor might have done better than to give a reply like this.. He clearly admits to the charges, that too with righteous audacity.. Guess this whole reader's editor thing is just a garb to siphon off the more difficult letters. :) Some cheek the people behind this idea must have..


Saw that... Look at us.. searching for our names and quotes when a paper that we adore is going down the drain... Jus kidding.. Mea culpa too.. :)

~SuCh~ said...

The Reader's Editor's response:

And yes, the reader's editor says that it isnt very often that a female student shines. The academic laurels of Indira Nooyi, Kalpana Chawla,Padmashree Warrior are no less than our darling Ms.Ram. They came to fore, only after they achieved heights in their careers. As for the lorry driver's daughter, isnt it a feeble explanation that she should be compared with Ms.Ram with all her familial opulence and backing??
As for she and her cousins inheriting the paper, the readers have no problem with who runs the paper, as long as they dont have to know about who came first in the lemon-in-the-spoon race.

The reader's editor thing only shows the paper's response, and not the letters. Now I understand what the reader's editor does. He edits the reader's writing. :)

Thought of responding to the response, but then why poke something that you know would ooze out pus... ?

Karthik said...

I actually beg to differ with u ..I think u didnt understand the concept of an independant editor - i mean he's one of us - just that he's the first among equals. Think of him like u'r class rep - if u have any issues with u'r teachers, u represent it via him. And the answers which he gives are like the teacher's answers i.e. he has no responsibility apart from being a single point of contact for criticisms !! And i guess his response today was decent - it looked like a gentle rebuke at the Editor in chief, rather than us "readers"..

I will paste the last mail i sent to him with his reply. This was like a month back - at a time when the Op-Ed page was getting cluttered with outscourced articles. And there has been a change after that has been pointed out - and yes he didnt publish this letter or quote it in the column, but he replied personally to me !!

Karthik said...

Dear Sir,

I have been reading "The HINDU" for ages now and it's more or less an indispensable part of my life. And i appreciate this Reader's Editor concept and look forward to reading your column every Monday. There are certain things which i would like to point out/ clarify with you.

1) The "Op-Ed" column - Off late, there are lots and lots of syndicated articles from "The Guardian" and one more American newspaper. I am not sure why there's a sudden flood of such articles - is there any lack of quality writers in the HINDU (or) is outsourcing cheaper ? I guess as a nation of a billion with more than a million unsolved problems, we don't have any dearth of issues to write about !! Why not reduce this outsourcing to say - one or two per week and have more "local" or "Indian" content. There used to be some interviews of eminent personalities earlier in the space, articles about RTI, corruption etc. But these days, i find totally obscure stuff and at the end of which find that it's from the Guardian !! For instance i found this really poor piece about Outsourcing today(courtesy The guardian) - even an amateur writer could have done a better job. The Britishers left us 60 years ago, why are we clinging on their legacy still ?? And if you really think that these articles are good, cant u publish them somewhere else - say some inner page and leave the Op-Ed for our talented writers ??

2) Earlier only the Second page used to be for advertisers, now slowly the third page is also out of news and the local news has shifted to the fourth and fifth pages !! Why this sudden change ??

3) The Hindu carried some good articles on the use of Helmets. I thought it was going to be a sustained campaign to encourage the use of helmets in tamilnadu. But alas, no such thing happened. Don't you think the HINDU can support such worthy causes ??

4) The "Metro Plus" is such a waste of paper. I understand it's for the advertisers and HINDU wasn't used to the Page 3 culture. But even after a year, the quality of Metro Plus hasn't improved much. It seems to be such a half hearted effort. Why not stick to the core competency and make HINDU the serious paper for which it's known and loved..

Keep up the good work Sir. We atleast have a person now who reads/listens to our rants !!

Warm Regards,
Karthik M

Karthik said...

Dear Mr. Karthik,

Thank you for making some interesting suggestions.

There is need for some balance in Op-Ed page. I hope those in charge, who have seen your note, take necessary action.

Page 3 now takes colour so the colour advertisements are positioned there. The news space has not been reduced.

The campaign for helmets was done for quite some time. Now their use has become compulsory (fron June 1). The paper, will definitely campaign for worthy causes.

Metroplus attracts the young readers. It factors in the changing times in the supplement. The core competencies are kept in view in the main section.

K. Narayanan
The Readers' Editor,
The Hindu,
Kasturi Buildings,
859 -- 860 Anna Salai,
Chennai 600 002

~SuCh~ said...

That the reader's editor is a necessity to handle the reader's critisism, is indicative enough of the subtle decadence that has settled itself in the Hindu. I have seen his replies quite a few times. He tries to act the arbitrator between the Paper and its reader.But an arbitrator appointed by one of the differing parties. Do not know how just he can be. And how meaningful his role can be.
This, in a way, absolves the paper of any direct answerability to the readers.

The tone he assumes at times, isn't the same as that the paper would have, had it directly responded to the reader's queries.He is not be blamed, as he speaks mostly as an individual, and by virtue of his being the reader's editor, does not fully represent the paper. It is a very flimpsy concept that works mostly to the paper's advantage. More often than not, I find his replies very boring and long-winded.